What should I do if there is a sinkhole on my property?

As many Tampa area homeowners are aware, when a sinkhole surfaces on your property it becomes your responsibility. Of course, if you are sufficiently insured your insurance company should cover the damages, but it is still up to you to take care of accomplishing any repairs.

So, what should you do if you notice signs of a sinkhole on your property?

If evidence of a threatening sinkhole appears near a house or another structure, it is important to do the following:

  1. Leave the area immediately.
  2. Report the sinkhole or potential sinkhole to emergency personnel as well as a building inspector.
  3. Do not return to the area unless a building inspector says it is safe to do so.

If a sinkhole appears in a road:

  1. Contact law enforcement immediately.

Once the situation is deemed safe for the time being, you can begin to consider repairs. Sinkholes that are not expanding much and are between 1 and 3 feet in both diameter and depth can generally be filled in. The best way to do this, however, depends on a few factors.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection recommends having minor sinkholes filled in with dry-mix concrete or a concrete plug, followed by clayley sand, and finally adding topsoil and regular sand on top.

In other cases, underpinning is a much better option. This is more expensive, because it involves driving piers into the ground and embedding them into the limestone. Insurance companies often recommend a simpler approach in order to reduce the amount of your claim.

When repairing a sinkhole, or sinkhole damage such as cracking foundation or walls, it is wise to contact a sinkhole attorney in order to attempt to obtain an adequate amount of compensation for repairs. Insurers are notorious here in Florida for denying and minimizing sinkhole-related claims, so an attorney might find it necessary to bring in structural engineers in order to assess and document the damage.

Source: Popular Mechanics, “Why Sinkholes Appear and How to Fix Them,” Stephanie Fellenstein, July 17, 2013